By Nicole Berrie
Photography by Kelsey Bennett
FOR ANYONE living below 14th street, The Smile has become the go-to destination for working breakfasts, lunch meetings or simply a pit stop to grab a cup of locally roasted joe. But since opening their doors in 2009, Matt Kliegman and Carlos Quirarte have quietly built a growing culinary empire now counting three outposts including Smile To Go on Howard Street as well as a kiosk at Milk Studios in Chelsea. Spearheaded by chef Melia Marden, the menus focus on locally sourced ingredients with a Mediterranean influence (check out Marden’s cookbook Modern Mediterranean). “The intention was to have food that is tasty, healthy and that people could eat many times a week,” said Kliegman over green tea one afternoon at their Bond Street flagship. “It’s about being simple, straightforward and reflect seasonality but not obsess over it.” To wit, The Smile’s menu changes seasonally four times a year while Smile To Go menu offers new items daily (Think steel cut oatmeal with coconut milk, marinated kale salad and vegan peanut butter and jelly cookies.) Recently, the duo introduced fresh pressed juices at two of their locations ranging from the Kale Mary (kale, spinach, apple, pineapple, lemon, and ginger) to the Purple Rain (grape, lime, celery).
When not shuttling between their three locations, Kliegman and Quirarte also helm late-night boites The Jane Ballroom and Westway. How do these downtown Renaissance men stay healthy on the job? Bonberi caught up with the restaurateurs-cum-nightlife impresarios on how they manage a balanced lifestyle in an industry of extremes.
How do you balance your nightlife schedule with a healthy lifestyle?
Matt: I walk an enormous amount. I don’t love taking cabs. I walk from Smile to Smile-To-Go four or five times a day, literally up and down Crosby or Lafayette and I walk to Milk on the weekends. I also try to sneak in two Vinyasa flow yoga classes in a week.
Carlos: I’m still trying to figure it out but I drink lots of water.
What ingredients are sourced locally at The Smile?
Matt: Our milk is from the Baton Kill Valley, which is up north in New York. Our coffee is roasted locally in New Rochelle. Our eggs come from upstate. Randy who is our director of operations spends a lot of time at the greenmarket in Union Square. It’s a great place for inspiration and for us to know what is local and in season.
What is your favorite dish at The Smile?
Carlos: It’s a brunch dish that is quinoa with vegetables and a poached egg on top.
Matt: It’s always changing. I was really into the granola and yoghurt. Now in the morning I get egg whites and sausage. It has a little arugula on there and two pieces of toast. It’s a well-rounded meal. I only eat breakfast three or four times a week. I drink a lot of green tea. I wake up and leave the house and before you know it it’s 1 o’clock and I’m like, shit I should eat something.
Do you cook at home?
Matt: My girlfriend Sophie and I try to once a week. I eat a lot of pasta and enjoy cooking it. I’ve been making a pomodoro based on the one from Scarpetta. I peel San Marzano tomatoes, take the cores out and let it sit for a while. Then I add a little cream or butter.
Matt: I love the Ottolenghi books. I actually find his recipes to be really difficult cause he uses all these different herbs and combinations of spices but they look amazing.
You introduced pressed juices. Why did you go with a Norwalk juicer?
Matt: The Norwalk juicer makes delicious juice, plus it’s healthier and it has more nutrients. I was definitely someone who was like oh what’s the big deal, but now I really get it. The pulp has so much juice in it and after you press it, it’s literally like a pancake. It’s thin as a paper towel and you peel it right off. So it makes sense why the juice just has a lot more nutrients because nothing’s stuck in the pulp.
What’s your favorite juice?
Carlos: My favorite is Clockwork Carrot. I drink the pressed juices nearly everyday.
Do you prefer yoga to the gym?
Matt: I hate the gym. I just dislike the gym culture. It’s not for me. People take it really seriously. Yoga is more my vibe. It’s low key. You can do a really challenging yoga class and get a sweat going or you can just do something low key and just stretch and breathe.
Carlos: I run so I’m working out the moment I walk out the door.
Working nights is a tough gig. How do you handle drinking?
Carlos: My philosophy is everything in moderation.
Matt: I’d be remiss if you found me on any given night really wasted. I’d rather have a glass of white wine at dinner. I drink a lot of white wine because it keeps me awake and red wine puts me asleep. It used to be like 6 nights a week. Now it’s more like two or three nights.
Favorite meal of the day?
Matt: Dinner. I’ll forget to have breakfast and lunch but I make time for dinner with friends. It’s the time I carve out of my day where I try not to work.
What is your biggest indulgence?
Matt: Vanilla ice cream. One of the only things we have in the freezer at all times is a box of vanilla Mochi. We’ll have two, cut them in half and that will be dessert.
Carlos: Dark chocolate, I won’t give it up.